Since making a splash at the Detroit auto show on January 9the with the debut of its boldly styled new Fusion mid-size sedan, Ford has dropped off the buzz map for the last couple of weeks. The biggest reason is the flip side of the bold decision by CMO Jim Farley a few years ago to disdain Ford advertising during the Super Bowl in favor of excelling in a wide range of other marketing pursuits, such as social media. So the brand simply can't participate in the ever-growing conversation about ads before the game.
There are longer-term concerns that Ford executives should have as well, such as the relative dropoff in sales of their once-hot new small car models, Fiesta and Fusion; an over-reliance on lower-profit fleet sales compared even with GM and Chrysler; and the fact that Ford's overall market share inched up only by 0.1 percent last year, to 16.5 percent, after three years of much more robust growth. As Forbes notes this week, "Ford has achieved a lot, but company leaders need to be honest with themselves. Their work has been good. But it is far from over."
Meanwhile, Ford is trying to capture a larger share of the always-strong seasonal discussion of auto marketing by talking about its new global slogan, "Go Further." Already introduced on Facebook in Europe since Farley began discussing it a few weeks ago, "Go Further" will replace "Drive One" in North America and "Feel the Difference" in Europe.
How the tagline is explained by Mark Fields, Ford's president, The Americas, on the company's employee website:
You're going to hear a lot more about Go Further during the year. Let me start by saying this is not just an advertising tagline per se. This was a lot of work done by Marketing and Sales and others, talking with employees, talking with dealers and more. It really cuts to what we stand for as a company and how we go about things. It’s part of our culture. What really came out as part of our culture is that we always go further as individuals, as a team, as a company. It goes back to our founder Henry Ford going further to put America on wheels and helping create the middle class. So this, in a way, is reinforcing many of the things we already do now - going further for our customers, for our dealers, for our communities. It really is about how we approach our work, our life and our relationships in the company. Trying to distill it down to a couple of words hopefully continues to represent what we do as we move the company forward over the next number of years.
The message seems to be right. While "Drive One" posed a challenge to consumers to consider the quality and performance of Ford's vehicles as the company bounced back under CEO Alan Mulally, "Go Further" is the statement of a brand that already has accomplished a lot but isn't content to rest on its laurels.
"We are at a different point now in our company's history," Farley told Reuters. He's hoping for the same impact with "Go Further" as Nike's "Just Do It" and McDonald's "Lovin' It."
That goal may be a stretch, but there's little arguing that, as it enters a new and potentially frustrating phase of its reascendance, Ford could benefit from new positioning and, dare we say it, drive.